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Three UK eSIM and Apple Watch Support Goes LIVE UPDATE

Friday, June 17th, 2022 (7:44 am) - Score 10,848
Three-UK-eSIM-Smartwatch-Pairing-Plan-Notice

After years of waiting and a few false starts, customers of mobile operator Three UK are this week reporting that they’ve finally been able to connect their Apple Watches to the operator via a new eSIM supported mobile plan – the ‘Smartwatch Pairing Plan‘, which is intended to complement an existing mobile package.

In case anybody has forgotten, Three UK previously informed us that their Apple Watch and eSIM support would go live in Q2 2022 (here), although we took that with a pinch of salt given the operator’s propensity for missing such targets. Rival operators including O2 (VMO2), Vodafone and EE (BT) have had eSIM support for a while, albeit with varying different levels of support (e.g. it’s sometimes only enabled for selected devices). 

NOTE: eSIM is an alternative to physical SIM cards, which essentially embeds an electronic SIM into your device and that could – once fully implemented – make it easier and quicker to switch between networks, among other things. Easier said than done.

At the time of writing, Three UK hasn’t yet updated their website to reflect all this or made an official announcement, but multiple customers have reported to us that they’ve been able to take a new eSIM based pairing plan and activate it on their Apple Watches. Much like on other operators, you’ll first need a normal mobile plan (usually associated to an iPhone) and the pairing plan is then taken as an add-on.

The ‘Smartwatch Pairing‘ plan itself comes with a monthly term and costs £7 a month (it uses the data allowance from your main plan), although it’s currently being offered free for the first 6 months of service. Three says that, once added, it can take up to 30 minutes for the new plan to go live on your watch, but it usually happens a lot faster than that (c.10 minutes for one person).

Three has previously said that, at launch, eSIM support would be specific to their Apple Watches, while support for other mobile handsets will apparently take a “little longer” to arrive (i.e. expect a long wait, knowing Three). We are reaching out to Three for an official comment.

UPDATE 8:27am

Three has now added a page for their Apple Watch support (here), which includes a line to the new pairing plan at the bottom.

UPDATE 10:31am

The operator has acknowledged that the new service is live, although they’ve stated that it’s currently being treated as a soft launch to ensure that the customer experience is working properly, before the main announcement is issued (expected this month).

UPDATE 22nd June 2022

The official press release just dropped to formally announce the launch – we’ll paste it in full below, as we’ve already covered the key points above.

Apple Watch Announcement

Three will begin offering its customers the Apple Watch Series 7 (GPS and cellular) or Apple Watch SE (GPS and cellular) with the added benefit to linking the smartwatch to an existing mobile contract and their mobile number from today. Customers will therefore be able to use data, take calls and messages, or stream their favourite music when they are out and about, without having to carry their iPhone, enabling them to stay connected to everything anywhere, solely via their Apple Watch.

The watch shares the same number as your iPhone through a built-in eSIM so there’s no need to provide an additional number to family and friends. It will share allowances between your phone and watch so any calls made through your watch for instance, will use minutes from your plan.

Three will launch this new service with an introductory offer of six months free smartwatch pairing and free Apple Fitness+ for the first three months, worth more than £70. Smartwatch pairing will work with iPhone 6s or later, and with Apple Watch Series 3 GPS + Cellular or later.

Customers will be able to order Apple Watch Series 7 featuring the largest and most advanced Apple Watch display ever — a reengineered Always-On Retina display with significantly more screen area and thinner borders — as well as enhanced durability, faster charging, new aluminium colours and watchOS 8, beginning today. For complete pricing and availability details, please visit www.three.co.uk

Apple Watch Series 7 with cellular allows customers to stay connected, make calls and receive texts, even without their iPhone nearby. The design of Apple Watch Series 7 is refined with softer, more rounded corners, and the display has a unique refractive edge that makes full-screen watch faces and apps appear to seamlessly connect with the curvature of the case. At just 1.7 mm thin, the narrower borders of Apple Watch Series 7 maximize the screen area of the display while minimally changing the dimensions of the watch itself. Apple Watch Series 7 also features a user interface optimized for the larger display, a QWERTY keyboard, plus two unique watch faces — Contour and Modular Duo — designed specifically for the new device. Users benefit from the same all-day 18-hour battery life,1 now complemented by 33 percent faster charging.

Available in 41mm and 45mm sizes, Apple Watch Series 7 is the most durable Apple Watch ever, with a stronger, more crack-resistant front crystal. It is the first Apple Watch to have an IP6X certification for resistance to dust and maintains a WR50 water resistance rating.2

Apple Watch Series 7 will be available at Three in four beautiful new aluminium case finishes, including midnight, starlight, green, and a new blue along with a range of new band colours and styles. Apple Watch SE will be available in Silver.

The newest Apple Watch continues to offer indispensable tools for health and wellness, including an electrical heart sensor and ECG app,3 and a Blood Oxygen sensor and app.4 watchOS 8 helps users stay healthy, active, and connected through new workout types, the new Mindfulness app, innovative accessibility features, greater access with Apple Wallet, and more capabilities with the Home app, along with enhancements to Messages and the Photos app.

New and existing Three customers can purchase either Apple Watch by visiting online, a Three store or by calling 0800 033 8006. You can add the Apple Watch Series 7 or Apple Watch SE to your existing plan at an extra cost or alternatively you can buy the Apple Watch outright via www.three.co.uk/accessories. If you already own a watch and want to add Smartwatch Pairing to your plan it will cost £7 per month and can be cancelled at any time.

Andy Foy, director of new products and propositions at Three UK, said: “We are delighted to be able to offer our customers smartwatch pairing. Customers have been asking for this capability because it’s such a great way to stay in touch with all the things that matter to you, without having to carry your device with you everywhere. It gives you the ultimate connected freedom.”

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
36 Responses
  1. Andrew Denton says:

    So happy to finally see this live.
    I set mine up last night just after 10 PM. The website was down for maintenance but I was able to set it up in the watch app on my phone.
    Only took about 10 minuets and I was up an running.

    Looking at my three account now it says I have two addons, the watch pairing plan and 6 months free for the pairing plan.

  2. Tim says:

    Three staff used to direct customers to their shops “to pick up a virtual eSIM instore”

    Are they still giving out that advice now?

  3. Elah says:

    Is it just for Watches or I can get eSIM for my Pixel 6 too?

  4. Ian says:

    But not for business customers! 🙁

    1. Ian Aitken says:

      i,ve had no issues with three.

      Why b*tch online why not just use another provider

  5. Chris says:

    No iPhone esim support yet… rubbish… was promised as imminent when I started this 2 year contract (due to expire in a couple of months)

  6. JJ Cassidy says:

    Just set this up with my Apple Watch. Open the ‘Watch’ App go to ‘Mobile Data’and login into your three account. Followed the prompts, was up and running in about 20 minutes with the first 6 months free.

    Great to finally have this!

    1. Onephat says:

      I get this error

      E53304-Smartwatch pairing cannot be activated – Chat to one of our team :- From your Three phone 333, From any other phone 0333 338 1001

      Tried 333 and they so no issue and to contact Apple.

    2. Guy S says:

      Thank you for this! I chatted with Three customer support this morning as I couldn’t work out how to activate this and all I got was a direction to the esim support page and when I pushed them I was told that it was “coming soon”. But now it’s activating and it looks like I didn’t have to give up my old tariff with the free global roaming either 🙂

    3. Onephat says:

      @Guy

      Who did you speak to? Sales? Or Support?

  7. Brett says:

    Useless . We need this for actual phones also

  8. MattS3 says:

    Mine has been sat on ‘Activating’ all day long.

    I thought it might be due to the fact I was running the iOS 16 beta on my phone without the beta on the watch.

    So I installed the beta on my watch and cleared mobile plan. Now I get the same error as Onephat is getting.

    1. Onephat says:

      Just tried the wife’s sim in my phone and exactly the same with my watch. Can only assume it’s a Three issue now and not my account.

  9. m says:

    After well over a decade of loyal Three clienthood. (going back to the rabbit phone!). I left the Three network in disgust regarding their promised but not delivered eSIM support. It was first proferred well before 2022 and from what your article says is still not implemented on Smartphones! So I continue NOT to recommend Three for anybody even thinking about an eSIM. In practice this means anybody with a high end phone which likely has an eSIM and 1 physical slot should look elsewhere. Not impressed Three.

    1. Chris says:

      After over a decade of your support your now chucking in the towel because they lack support for some niche that others don’t even fully support?

      Also Rabbit was a Hutchinson thing that was deployed for the likes of Mercury (later 1-2-1 then T-Mobile and now EE) & BT.

      Rabbit predates GSM and we’ll before 3G which is what 3 is named after.

      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabbit_(telecommunications)

      Not sure how you’ve been with 3 since Rabbit to have been on some Hutchinson system you’d have to have been with BT or C&W or another then Orange then 3.

    2. Dan says:

      @m

      I think you massively overestimate how much need or desire the majority of users – even those with high end phones – have for eSIM.

  10. Kris Lord says:

    £7 a month is pretty expensive given Three’s normal attempts to undercut the other networks.

    1. Dan says:

      I think Apple probably set that price. Both EE and Vodafone started off charging £5 a month for Apple Watch connectivity, then both went up to £7 a month. I think all UK networks that support Apple Watch also offered 6 months free when they first launched the service.

    2. ACDeag says:

      It would be illegal for Apple to dictate a price. O2 charge £5 so that disproves it anyway.

  11. Aissur says:

    You think Three can sort this eSIM out? lol they cant even sort out their network signal (& so many other issues, app, router update epic fails etc etc)

    They put up a new mast & they mess up the signal nearby elsewhere. Full signal some places but still you cant make calls, use internet/ anything. Some places zero to one bar 4G OUTDOORS (when there should be 5G by now) AND when you query it, they ask you to switch to 3G which is non existent lol (recent iphones havent got 3G option).
    They will keep telling you to restart your phone/ equipment, they will advise you to order a new SIM etc etc none of their solutions work because the root cause isnt addressed.

    This is the Three new slogan:

    ‘We’re fixing an issue with our network in this area​’

    1. mr Ian Aitken says:

      i,ve had no issues with three.

      Why b*tch online why not just use another provider

  12. MattS3 says:

    Has anybody got this working on an Apple Watch yet?

    I keep getting the same E53304 error or a different generalised error.

    1. Onephat says:

      Hi Mat
      I spoke to customer relations at length yesterday and can’t get it to work. Same error as you.

    2. Paul says:

      I activated it on Friday evening. My phone is on a legacy contract with international calling and unlimited data. That’s been retained and the Watch add on is live, along with the 6 months for free discount. There were no issues during the activation process so can’t offer any tips unfortunately!

  13. Onephat says:

    Mark

    Any chance you could ask Three if they have suspended rollout or something?

    1. Mr IanAitken says:

      I,ve had no issues with three.

      Why b*tch online why not just use another provider

  14. Onephat says:

    @Mr Ian

    Who’s bitching? People are asking questions. Lucky you for having no issues but plenty of us out. Generally happy with Three. As for using another provider are you going to pay my early termination charge? If not probably just think about shutting up chap 🙂

  15. david forster says:

    Been trying to pair for three days with no joy.Lots of calls to three but no resolve.Apple support checked my hardware with no issues found.

  16. MattS3 says:

    Spoke with several Three customer service advisors, from various departments. They even went on to tell me step by step how to set up a mobile plan and that cellular use would rapidly drain battery life. Despite my query being that I receive an error when trying to set up a ‘Smartwatch Pairing Plan’ that is active on my Three account.

    It took a while for the advisor to come to the conclusion that the plan is active on my account and that I would need to ring 333 in order for them to ‘activate’ it their end.

    I don’t have much faith in that working either as the advisor started off by saying that what I was saying couldn’t be right because the only Esim trial they did was December 2021.

    I’ll update if I’m able to get it working.

  17. Mike says:

    The three new boss wants to rip people off as much as he can.

  18. Antwan says:

    I had and EE watch plan for 6 months.
    This is so useless. There’s never a single minute where I’m with my watch and without my phone.
    Ah yes, during my gym workouts. But they have wifi and no cell signal.

  19. Greg Oldfield says:

    Same issue here, registered Esim through Apple Watch app and it’s stuck in “activating” .
    I can see it has been added on to my account but won’t activate in the Watch

  20. Warren says:

    Paired my old watch series 3 cellular no problems! The website said watch 5 or newer but watch 3 works fine. Free for 6 months too and able to cancel at any time! It’s worth noting the watch pairing is only supported on 24 month Sim only plans – go through Quidco for reduced priced contracts and good cash back. I paid £8 per month for 30Gb unlimited calls/texts. £45 cash back – feels like a good deal with the watch connected free for 6 months and a few nice perks on the 3+ app. I would advise checking coverage and maybe trying a three pay as you go sim first as the 4G signal can be patchy in some areas.

  21. Jimmy says:

    I’m just getting ‘ E53304-Smartwatch pairing cannot be activated’; spoken to customer services 4 times, been told to go in a store to get an esim, shop as expected said they knew nothing about that. Three further attempts, one where they had no idea, one where they added the add on manually, and last one where they said they’d fixed some issue with old sim orders on the account…. Still the error message appears.. anyone had it and worked out how to fix it?!

  22. Kevin Long says:

    E53304-Smartwatch pairing cannot be activated

    Getting the same issue!

  23. Jason Hollins says:

    Anyone got a fix for the error yet?

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